Disciplined Inconsistency with Consistency Types Disciplined Inconsistency with Consistency Types
Paper summary In the face of latency, partitions, and failures, application sometimes turn to weak consistency for improved performance. However, strong consistency cannot always be avoided, so some data stores (e.g. Cassandra, Riak) allow applications to operate on some data with weak consistency and on other data with strong consistency. However, it is difficult to ensure that data read with weak consistency does not leak into the strongly consistent data. For example, imagine a ticketing application that displays the number of remaining tickets for an upcoming movie. To improve performance, an application may choose to read the data using weak consistency; it's okay if the displayed number is slightly erroneous. However, now imagine that we want to increase the price of the last 10 tickets. If we used the same weakly consistent value to determine the price of a ticket, we may make less money that we expect. Weak and strong consistency cannot be carelessly mixed. The Inconsistent, Performance-bound, Approximate (IPA) storage system uses a type system of consistency types to ensure consistency safety: the guarantee that weakly consistent data does not leak into strongly consistent data. They also introduce error-bounded consistency which allows a runtime to dynamically choose the strongest consistency that satisfies certain constraints (e.g. latency or accuracy). Programming Model. The IPA programming model involves three components: abstract data types, consistency policies, and consistency types. Users annotate ADTs with consistency policies which determines the consistency types returned by the ADT's methods. 1. ADTs. IPA is bundled with a set of common ADTs (e.g. sets, maps, lists) that can be implemented with any number of backing stores (e.g. Cassandra, Riak, Redis). The collection of ADTs is also extensible; users can add their own ADTs. 2. Consistency Policies. ADT instances (or their methods) are annotated with consistency policies which designate the level of consistency the user desires. Static policies, like strong consistency, are fixed throughout the lifetime of the ADT. Dynamic policies allow the runtime to dynamically choose the consistency of the system to meet some constraint. For example, a user can set a policy LatencyBound(x), and the system will choose the strongest consistency that can be served and still satisfy the latency bound. Or, a user can set a ErrorTolerance(x) allowing the system to return approximate results with weaker consistency. 3. Consistency Types. Consistency types are parameterized on a type T and are partially ordered ``` Consistent[T] / | \ Interval[T] Rushed[T] ... \ | / Inconsistent[T] ``` Users can explicitly endorse, or upcast, weak types to stronger types. Rushed types are produced by ADTs with LatencyBound policies and are a sum of other consistency types. Interval types are a numeric interval which are guaranteed to contain the correct value. Enforcing Consistency Policies. Static consistency policies are easy to enforce. The ADT operations simply set flags that are used by the underlying store. Dynamic policies are trickier to implement. - Latency bounds. To service a read with a latency bound of x milliseconds, for example, a read is issued at every single consistency level. The strongest to return in less that x milliseconds is used. This naive approach can put unwanted load on a system, so IPA can also monitor and predict the strongest consistency model for a given latency bound in order to issue only a couple of reads. - Error bounds. Error bounds are enforced using a reservation scheme similar to the one used by bounded CRDTs. For example, imagine a counter with value 10 should be concurrently decremented but never drop below 0. We can allocate 10 decrement tokens and distribute them to nodes. A node can decrement so long as it has enough tokens. IPA involves reservation servers which are assigned tokens. A node can return an approximate read by knowing the number of outstanding tokens. For example, given a value of 100 and knowing there are 10 outstanding increment tokens, the true value is somewhere in the range [100, 110]. The more outstanding tokens there are, the weaker the error bounds. To avoid unnecessarily granting tokens, IPA uses an allocation table which maps reservation servers to tokens. Tokens are only allocated when necessary. Implementaton. IPA is implemented in Scala on top of Cassandra with some middleware for the reservation servers. Type checking is done by leveraging Scala's type system.

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